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Bordeaux Vineyards Threatened by Proposed High-Speed Train Tracks

A new TGV line would slice through 124 acres in Graves

Diana Macle
Posted: January 22, 2010

Winegrowers in Bordeaux's Graves appellation were dismayed to learn on Monday that vineyards belonging to 10 châteaus could be torn up to make way for a new high-speed train line. The new TGV rail link, which will carry passengers from Bordeaux to either Toulouse or Spain, will be constructed south of the city of Bordeaux through some of the region's oldest vineyards. Winery owners and growers are vowing to fight the proposal.

Ten estates will be affected by the line and its 2,000-yard corridor, damaging an estimated 124 acres out of the appellation's total production of 9,390 acres. Tracks will cut across the most northern part of the Graves area, including well-known estates such as Château Le Tuquet, Château Méjean and Château Saint-Jérôme. Further south, they'll cut across the properties of Château du Grand Bos, Château Haut Selve and Château de Castres.

Home to some of Bordeaux's oldest vineyards, and located within many of the city's suburbs, Graves has long been threatened by urban sprawl. The selected route surprised vintners, who believe the line could be built further west, causing less damage to the vineyards. Local producers have decided to contest the decision and try to negotiate a more acceptable path. "Our efforts to promote wine tourism will be jeopardized by the construction of this line, which will scar the landscape," said Jean-Louis Vivière, director of the Graves Winegrowers Association. "When it comes to building new transport infrastructure, agricultural land is always viewed as vacant, contrary to housing areas. This lack of respect for French appellations has to stop."

The growers have a bit of time on their side as the first tracks are not scheduled to be laid before 2014. But options are limited—the route of a high-speed train needs to follow a relatively straight path to move at 186 miles per hour. The TGV planners hope that the new line will be in operation by 2020, allowing passengers to travel from Paris to the Spanish city of Bilbao in less than four hours.

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